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    Are we the control group of an experiment?

    Güven Sak, PhD10 January 2009 - Okunma Sayısı: 1583


    Turkish government has been monitoring the financial crisis that has been blatantly arriving here in Turkey as long for almost one and a half years without taking any precautionary measures. Observing such contentment, one cannot stop thinking that the government has an intention. Recently, a friend of mine said "I am afraid that Turkey might be the control group." Why not? Maybe, Turkey is the control group of the experiment conducted to understand the measures required to tackle the crisis. Can this be possible?  Let us see.


    As some of you might know, a medicine curing one disease is not introduced in the market for commercial use instantly after it is developed. It shall be first tested on a group of patients to see whether it cures the disease or whether it has side effects. The process goes like this: A testing protocol to monitor the course of the disease is decided and the experiment is initiated with the first medication.  If such experiments are conducted without setting a control group, the effects of the medicine cannot be fully measured. I mean; health indicators of the patients on which the medicine is tested may worsen due to effects other than that of the disease they are cured for. Therefore, such experiments shall be controlled experiments for which a control group is needed.


    What is this controlled experiment we have been talking about? Let me tell you: All patients participating in the experiment are treated under the same testing protocol and subjected to periodical tests. Blood pressure is measured, blood tests are carried out, and operations of different organs are monitored periodically and so on. This is the reason why experiments are so costly. In controlled experiments, participant patients are classified under two groups one of which is medicated with the medicine tested while the other group is not. The patients that are not medicated demonstrate the usual course of the disease. And thus, the group of patients under medication can be compared with the group that is not subject to any treatment.


    If you try to understand the "deeply-sleeping beauty" image the Turkish government has been demonstrating almost for one and a half years since the emergence of the crisis as a minor domestic incident, you will come out with just one rational explanation: Turkey functions as the control group of the international experiment being conducted. It is impossible to provide a different explanation and understand the reason why, among 41 counties as per the latest census, Turkey is the only one acting so imprudently. In its latest study, TEPAV takes into consideration 41 countries which in different ways introduced 14 different precautionary measures that can be classified under 4 main policy groups. The measures and the number of the countries implementing those measures can be observed in the table below. However, the thing is that, Turkey is by far the less precautious country. This is the first and also strange point of today.


    Frequency of Taking Precautionary Measures


    Number of implementing countries

    Change in policy interest rate


    Deposit guarantee


    Domestic liquidity facilitation


    Swap channel




    Re-capitalization for banks


    Exchange rate intervention


    Government guarantee for borrowing by banks


    Credit guarantees


    IMF agreement


    Nationalization / Transfer to funds


    Expansionary fiscal policy




    Change in required reserve ratio



    The second point is this: The study conducted reveals that the countries integrated more with the global economy take more comprehensive steps to control the impacts of the crisis. What is the reason behind this? It is that this is the first global crisis of our beautiful blue hemisphere. The crisis is moving from one country to another through interrelated balances and this first requires the establishment of economic freedom in the country. Integration into the global economy cannot take place without financial liberalization. Since last year, the countries that have fulfilled both liberalization and integration have been taking significant precautionary measures and trying to limit the damage to be caused by the crisis. This is the second point and is not strange at all.


    The third point is an obvious one: The process of the integration of the Turkish economy into the global economy has significantly gained pace especially since 2002, during the period of AKP (Justice and Development Party) administration. In fact, thanks to the Customs Union Agreement signed in 1996 coupled with the relative economic stability thanks to the measures introduced via the economic stabilization and adjustment program in 2001, Turkey in this recent period became more of a world citizen. Now, however, the world-citizen Turkish economy shall not be administered in the way it was done before, especially not in the present context. And these are the third and the fourth points I would like to state.


    If you observe the issues within the abovementioned framework, the result you will reach will be definite. There is only one way to explain the "deeply-sleeping beauty" image demonstrated: "Turkey is the control group of an experiment conducted to understand the measures to tackle the crisis."


    Let's make this the fifth point of the weekend.

    Just as I said before, experiments of this kind are always costly.


    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 10.01.2009